Hi there! I hope you all had a most wonderful holiday season and got everything you wanted under your tree. I know that I'm ridiculously behind with this post, but for the last two weeks I've been in serious cleaning mode. It's not exactly a resolution as much as clearing the path so that I can see the floor and maybe make time to make a resolution. Now that the dining room table is sporting just the centerpiece, now that the stacks of boxes/bags/magazines have been cleared from the living room, now that jars/boxes/pots/pans/cookie sheets have been put away in the kitchen and the piles of clothes washed and put away in the bedroom, now I can look around and start thinking about new projects.
I had finished and gifted the quilt I had started for my mom way back in March. It was one of my biggest projects this year and supposed to have been a Mother's day gift, but instead turned into a gift for New Years. I got the design from Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts, extending it on each side with the colors used in the wheel and adding family photos printed on fabric. Considering it was my first quilt, I'm rather proud...just don't look to closely at the quilting on the back!
I had also gotten around to bottling and giving out as gifts the Green Walnut Wine and the Nocino I had told you all about back in July. Both came out wonderfully, but I think the next time I make these - and believe me I'll definitely be making these again - I'm going to reduce the amount of sugar and get better coffee filters. The cheap ones kept tearing and I went through almost half the box trying to make sure that the liquor ended up clear and clean.
The wine had almost a port-like thickness to it with a nice spicy warmth and the elusive certain something that the walnuts added, but the Nocino was by far my favorite. It has the citrus notes from the lemon and orange peel in the background, the warmth from the cinnamon and vanilla, but none of these overpowered the actual walnut. When I was little there used to be a dozen walnut trees in our back yard. We lived in an apartment complex so the trees didn't really belong to anyone and as kids we used to climb the trees and eat the walnuts before they were quite ripe, and this liquor reminded me very strongly of those summers of scraped knees and endlessly torn/stained dresses. I let one of my friends smell the jar before it was ready and she proclaimed that even if it doesn't end up tasting good, it can be bottled as cologne because it smelled amazing. I'm glad to say that a small glass, chilled, makes for a wonderful aperitif.
Now I know that June and walnut season seem like a lifetime away, but there's
nothing better then enjoying a taste of summer in the winter and
planning for the summer ahead.
Adapted from Simply Recipes, I doubled the recipe, reduced the sugar a bit, added some personal twists, and incorporated ideas found in other recipes across the web.
Walnut juice will permanently stain anything it touches a deep brown, so you definitely want to wear gloves while cutting them and be sure to wash the cutting board with soap as soon as you are done.
75 green walnuts, you want them while they're still soft and easily cut with a knife
4 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves (I don't like cloves so I reduced the amount, next time I might leave them out completely)
1 whole vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
Zest of one lemon, make sure to leave out the white pith
Zest of one orange, leave out the pith here as well
16 walnut leaves, optional
4 cups granulated sugar
2 liters vodka or everclear
Great big glass jar
1. Rinse and pat dry the walnuts. Carefully cut them into quarters with a sharp knife making sure that none of the walnuts have started forming a hard shell yet. I wasn't sure what adverse affects the late walnuts would cause, so I tossed the two I had encountered in my batch. One site recommended sticking a needle through each walnut prior to cutting to ensure that it was good.
2. Put walnuts, spices, zest, leaves, and vodka into a large glass container making sure that the vodka covers the walnuts. Cover and shake or stir to mix well. Store for at least 6 weeks, giving it a shake every couple of days or so. I read somewhere, and I really wish I could remember where, that the jar should be kept in a nice shaded area outside, and I liked the whimsy of it so I kept it on my kitchen windowsill (my apartment has no back yard/porch or balcony so it's as close as I was going to get). This had the benefit of me actually remembering to shake it once in a while.
3. After 6 weeks (or two months in my case) remove the walnuts and solids with a slotted metal spoon, again being careful as this mixture will still stain. Strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth and then through a coffee filter back into into the rinsed jar to get rid of any debris or sediment, and add the sugar. Shake well and leave for another month or so, again shaking every couple of days.
4. Once you're ready to bottle, just siphon into bottles and cork tightly. Like most liquors it should last several years stored in a cool, dry place and will soften and mellow out with age. Keep a bottle or two in the back of the cabinet and try it every couple of months to see what you like best. I poured myself a taste a month after bottling and it was quite good. I ended up with almost 10 half-bottles (375mL) in the end.